Finnish SA: Police reprimanded for illegal processing of personal data with facial recognition software

7 October 2021


Background information

Date of final decision: 20 September 2021
Cross-border case or national case: National case
Controller: National Police Board
Legal Reference: Art. 14 in the Act on the Processing of Personal Data in Criminal Matters and in Connection with Maintaining National Security
Decision: Reprimand
Key words: Personal data breach

Summary of the Decision

Origin of the case

The Deputy Data Protection Ombudsman has issued a statutory reprimand to the National Police Board for illegal processing of special categories of personal data during a facial recognition technology trial.

The National Police Board notified the Office of the Data Protection Ombudsman in April 2021 of a personal data breach involving the trial use of facial recognition software by the National Bureau of Investigation in early 2020. The National Bureau of Investigation unit specialising in the prevention of child sexual abuse had experimented with facial recognition technology in identifying potential victims.

The decision to try the software had been made independently by the police unit, and the processing of personal data had been performed without the approval of the controller, i.e. the National Police Board. The National Police Board had been informed of the use of the Clearview AI service by Buzzfeed News.

Key Findings

The controller’s responsibility was not fulfilled in these operations, and the measures taken by the controller had not prevented the unlawful processing of personal data. It would have been the duty of the National Police Board to ensure that police personnel are familiar with regulations and the required procedures.

Neither had the police taken into consideration the requirements for processing special categories of personal data. Furthermore, the processing had been begun without obtaining information on how the service being used processed personal data. For example, the police had not determined in advance how long the data would be stored or whether it could be disclosed to third parties.


In addition to the reprimand, the Deputy Data Protection Ombudsman ordered the National Police Board to notify the data subjects of the personal data breach insofar as their identity could be determined. The National Police Board must also request that Clearview AI erase the data transmitted by the police from its storage platforms.

For further information: Police reprimanded for illegal processing of personal data with facial recognition software (



The news published here does not constitute official EDPB communication, nor an EDPB endorsement. This news item was originally published by the national supervisory authority and was published here at the request of the SA for information purposes. Any questions regarding this news item should be directed to the supervisory authority concerned